Print and Go Back Dallas Mavericks [Print without images]

Monday, December 26, 2011
Week ahead: Nuggets, OKC, Raps and J.J.

By Jeff Caplan

The 2011-12 season has lifted off and the high-speed ride has only just begun. Following Sunday's Christmas Day opener that included a rousing championship banner-raising ceremony, there is no time to even exhale.

About 27 hours after the players left the American Airlines Center after the 105-94 loss  that was actually much worse than the final score against the Miami Heat, they'll be tipping off against the Denver Nuggets in the first back-to-back of 20 on the season.

Every Monday we'll break down the week ahead. This should be a fun one with a stop at the Okahoma City Thunder on Thursday, a visit by former Mavs assistant Dwane Casey and his new team the Toronto Raptors and a visit up north to say hello to old friend J.J. Barea and his new pal Ricky Rubio with the Minnesota Timberwolves on New Year's Day.

Here's a look:

Today: vs. Nuggets, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Who are these guys? Nene returned to anchor coach George Karl's latest incarnation, one that does not include Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith or Kenyon Martin. Still,this is an intriguing club with Nene, Aaron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and Mavs castoff Corey Brewer. Expect an up-tempo game that play into the hands of the Nuggets because while it is their season opener, the Mavs will be coming off the big Christmas Day game against the hated Heat.

Thursday: at Thunder, 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: TNT/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Thunder beat up Dallas pretty good in two preseason games, building 23-point leads in both contests. But, while OKC played its regular rotation, the Mavs didn't show much. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd sat out the first game and illness forced out Jason Terry and Delonte West in the second game. The Thunder will have to scour tape of the Mavs' games against the Heat and Nuggets to get an idea of Dallas' rotation. The Mavs should have fresh legs and they'll need them because OKC will be primed to run and gun its West finals ouster out of the building.

Friday: vs. Raptors, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Former Mavs assistant and defensive architect Dwane Casey has his own club again north of the border. He doesn't have a lot to work with and his first season will certainly be challenging. He'll have his new club up to play the defending champs and might even show off a new defensive wrinkle or two.

Sunday: at Timberwolves, 6 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: No longer is it safe to assume that a trip to Minneapolis will be a walk in a snowy park. This is an interesting team under the guidance of Rick Adelman. Barea joins the rookie Rubio in the backcourt and Kevin Love and Michael Beasley up front with a few other exciting young players. Another second night of a back-to-back could turn into a track meet, and that's never easy for the older team, even this early into the season.